5 steps to stop worrying what people think of you

Post image for 5 steps to stop worrying what people think of you

On my seventh night in New York City I ended up, almost accidentally, living out a fantasy of mine — mingling with writers and photographers, in an expensive Upper West Side apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows, drinking a hundred-dollar bottle of wine.

Some details were different, however. A rainbow of throw pillows covered half the main room and the woman I was talking to was naked and I was in my underwear.

It was my first, and so far only, naked party, and it was the beginning of the end of a thirty-year era of rather severe self-consciousness. I’d always had a burning fear of the judgments of others. In particular, I couldn’t bear the thought of someone else seeing me as bad or wrong. I just couldn’t let it happen, and unconsciously designed a life that minimized that risk, which means it minimized interactions with other people.

This self consciousness declined very slowly throughout my late twenties, and after my trip to New York it began to fall away in large chunks and now I feel very little self-consciousness. In the big picture, I know that my relatively sudden shedding of self-worry has come from a gradual accumulation of insights. By the time of the trip, I had learned a little too much about the world and myself to continue to be so afraid of both.

But insight alone is often not enough. Life has to make its principles clear by demonstrating them to you in real time. An unfamiliar experience must act as a catalyst, illuminating your accumulated insights and leaving you with a new and unfamiliar sense of yourself. When you notice that the feeling of being you is an easier and more natural feeling than it used to be, you know you have grown.

In the case of my graduation from self-consciousness I know that the catalyst for the final untangling began at the naked party in Manhattan. 

“It’s not a sex party,” my friend explained, “It’s a naked party, but sexual things may happen.” He forwarded an email from the host that outlined the rules: Nobody has to do anything they don’t want to do, you can leave any time, if you choose to stay past 11 you must at least be down to your underwear. This is not an orgy.

Agreeing to go was quite out-of-character for me. I’d always had a policy of declining anything that entailed any risk of awkwardness. It turned out to be the most accepting atmosphere I think I’d ever been in. It felt totally okay to be who I was and act how I acted, and it felt like it had always been that way. The world seemed to get bigger. There were more places I could go. I realized I could talk to anyone, and that this had always been true.

The party wasn’t the sole catalyst for my movement away from self-consciousness. New York itself does this. It’s a city full of eccentrics and experimenters. Unconventional Americans from conventional midwestern cities migrate there to live out their eccentricities. First-time visitors might feel a profound absence of self-consciousness in the streets of Manhattan, a place where you quickly realize that strangers are far too busy to waste a moment judging you for your quirks. They’ve seen it all anyway.

This feeling was new to me. It would be another six months or so before I felt that relaxedness all the time, but considering how many years of uptight habits that had to unravel during that period, it felt like I was becoming freer every day.

***

I want other people to experience a drastic loss of self-consciousness too, but I can’t give you a naked party, not that it’s going to be the right catalyst for everyone. A novel event like that can create such a pivotal change only when certain insights have already been realized. The discussion about how to get over self-consciousness is much larger than a single blog post — even a long one like this one — but I can at least plant what I think are the most vital seeds:

1) Stop judging others

The times in my life I’ve been most self-conscious have been the times I’ve been most judgmental of others. These two qualities seem directly tied to each other, and may even be the same thing. The more agitated I am about the actions and apparent beliefs of other people, the more I feel like they’re all judging me, they’re being unfair.
At least most of the time, the feeling of being judged by others is actually caused by your judging yourself. If you think about it, you can’t actually experience the judgments of others. The only judgmental thoughts you can experience directly are your own. If you often “feel” harsh disapproval from others, I would bet you often disapprove of others with similar harshness. The more accepting you are, the more accepted you feel.

Like I said, for most of my life I couldn’t bear the thought of another person regarding me as bad or wrong. The most efficient way to avoid risking that was to interact with people as little as possible. This becomes a habit. I know now that I was so afraid of appearing bad or wrong because of how intensely I judged others for appearing bad or wrong to me.

I am convinced that for most people, learning to minimize habitual judgments of others is all they need to do to alleviate the bulk of self-consciousness and the pain of worrying what others will think of you. If you put any of these tips into practice, make it this one. It will get you most of the way.

Nonjudgment is a powerful practice for personal transformation, and this becomes self-evident once you begin to experiment with it. It’s a major theme in Eastern philosophy and spiritual practices, but it doesn’t need to be spiritual at all. The best place to learn nonjudgment is through mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation.

2) Hold other people’s freedom of thought as highly as you hold their freedom of speech

Understand that others have every right not to like you, and their reasons are none of your business. Almost everyone recognizes the importance of every individual’s freedom of speech, even if we don’t like what they say. Yet we somehow convince ourselves that it is unacceptable for others to even think badly of us. While there are necessary limitations to freedom of speech, (making threats for example) freedom of thought is inalienable. Others have every right to think whatever they want, and you should respect that to an even greater degree than you do freedom of speech. Nobody owes you explanation or justification for their thoughts. Thoughts do not have to be fair, sensible, or pleasant. Personal thought is utterly private territory.

Furthermore, people don’t choose what thoughts they have. Thoughts happen to us like weather happens to us. Modern neuroscience tells us that we don’t actually have freedom of belief. A person cannot make himself believe whatever he wants — to truly believe something, it must feel true given what he already believes. So the beliefs we end up with are essentially predetermined by outside forces, which means you can’t logically blame people for their beliefs. We can hold people accountable for their actions, but not for their beliefs, because they never chose them. [This is also the tip of a huge discussion. For more, check out The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris]

So resist the temptation to blame your Catholic grandmother for disapproving of your views on sex and relationships. It is not her fault, and it’s probably useless (and rude) to try to change her just so that you can feel like nobody sees any faults in you.

The belief that you ought to worry about (and try to change) what others think requires you to believe that you actually can reliably change the views of another person. In real life this is almost impossible, and so the sooner you recognize that other people’s thoughts are off-limits to you, the sooner you will lose your anxiety about them.

3) Notice your impulse to seek scraps of approval

We all would rather have others laugh when we make a joke, and nod when we make a point. It feels good, and we naturally seek good feelings even if they lead us to bad places. If you get hooked on those little moments of approval, then anxiety can grow around the possibility of not getting them. The more you need approval, even in the smallest doses, the more disapproval hurts, and the more you will interpret it as a sign that there is something wrong with you.

When I grew up I quickly became addicted to regular doses of social approval. I felt that the number of these shows of approval from others (compliments, assurances, laughs and looks of admiration) made a good barometer for whether I was moving towards happiness. Disapproval was a sign that there was something wrong with me and that I need to change what I’m doing — or worse, who I am.

This might make sense if we were all the same person and all valued the same things, but we’re not. There’s no reason to believe your parents’ religion makes sense for you to practice, or that you shouldn’t make art just because your friends don’t get it.

You lose nothing when people don’t laugh at your joke or agree with your point. You stand to lose a lot when when you let your sense of worth depend on it. Habitual approval-seeking behavior is how you become your most awkward, painful self — by bringing visible self-doubt and neediness to every action.

Often the most gratifying achievements in our lives become accessible to us only when we knowingly expose ourselves to the disapproval of others. Still, we all develop a tendency to seek these scraps of approval like breadcrumbs, and if we’re not aware of that tendency, we follow the trail without looking where it’s going. Notice the impulse to reach for these breadcrumbs, and when you do, consciously withdraw your hand. Leave them for the birds.

4) Realize your self-image is not who you are, and that it will always feel at least partly wrong

We all have a self-image at any given moment in which we think about ourselves — a mental impression that represents the person you are right now. But this image is nowhere near enough information to represent a whole person, no matter how attractive or ugly it is. Images are thin and devoid of detail or possibility. Human beings are endlessly complex and dynamic. You can’t know a person by examining a momentary impression of them any more than you can know an entire country by looking at a few photos of it — even though we do it all the time, even to ourselves.

So the figure I see in the mirror, and all the peripheral thoughts that it triggers — how I feel about that guy, what I like about him and don’t like about him, what I expect will happen to him, what I wish had happened to him earlier — all that changes. It can be different at any given time. The impression I have of that image today is different to some degree from any one of the other thousands of impressions I’ve gotten from looking at him over the last thirty years. I find a different self-image every time I look for one, and that means none can be trusted.

~From “All self-images are false”

Your self-image is constantly changing, always overemphasizing certain traits (usually its imperfections) and leaving out other parts entirely, and it always tries to come off as a reliable assessment of who you are. But it can never represent you accurately, because it’s nothing but a comparatively minuscule ball of interchangeable thoughts about your life.

If you’re not your self-image, who are you then? You are the present-moment experiencer of those thoughts — and everything else in this world. You experience passing self-images in the same way you experience passing weather, passing bodily sensations, passing trends and passers-by on the sidewalk. They drift into your awareness, their appearances changing the whole while, and then they are gone and can only be remembered.

A self-image will always be unacceptable anyway. Because it’s a churning mess of emotionally-backed thoughts, it will always contain at least one aspect that doesn’t sit right with you, so there’s no way to perfect it. Do something to relieve one insecurity and another one pops up. You can spend your whole life trying to rid your self-image of aspects you don’t like and you’ll never get there. It’s designed to let you down and keep you making changes. It’s a treadmill.

Learn to expect it to be what it is: needy and impossible to satisfy, showing a different face to everyone and to every moment — an altogether inadequate representation of who you are. But expect it to be there.

This is a crucial idea. More here.

5) Find the like-minded

This is not a prescription to “stick to your own kind”, or to find an echo chamber where you can’t learn anything new. Rather, it means to find the people out there in the world who love what you love. Sharing a passion with another person lends you a stable source of self-esteem along with a sense of solidarity. Music people, for example, love music, and they also love music people, and specifically they love their love of music. Once you find this level of connection and solidarity with even one other person, approval from people who don’t share those values starts to feel irrelevant.

Often we’re born into families, social circles, cities or even entire societies where the norms don’t feel right to us. Opposing values can lead to interpersonal friction and alienation. Nonjudgment and open-mindedness can go a long way in allowing you to find a sense of belonging even in places where you’re the eccentric one.

But sometimes, if the interpersonal friction is too great, you do need to remove people from your life, or remove yourself from a particular place or social situation. It is entirely possible that no matter how nonjudgmental you become yourself, certain others will always disapprove and say so, and that their company will no longer be worth your time. For example, if your parents are staunch fundamentalists, they may never be able to accept that you are gay or that you don’t believe in God. They may never lose their need to try to make the world conform to their beliefs, and that may mean that it no longer makes sense for you to attend family gatherings any more. These can be hard decisions to make, but it doesn’t make sense to suppress your values to appease others.

Find the people who love what you love. They are out there, no matter how little you have in common with the mainstream. Human beings are built for loving, they just sometimes let certain aspects of their neediness get in the way of their ability to love — self-doubting would-be artists and intolerant parents alike.

This can make a huge difference to your quality of life. Moving to another household, neighborhood, city or even country is often a relatively small price to pay for a consistently higher level of self-esteem and fulfillment. People do it all the time, and they wonder how they ever got along before. For all the personal freedoms enjoyed by members of the “first world”, most of us invest too little conscious attention in creating living situations that allow us to be fully who we are, with a real sense of freedom.

***

It’s hard to describe the feeling of shedding self-consciousness, but it is a physical feeling with physical habit changes. It feels like there is much less that’s off-limits to you. You find yourself less attracted to the edges of rooms. You accept more invitations. You fidget less. You stop waiting for others to do the talking. You ask for things you want. You do less hoping that others will behave a certain way. You do less hoping altogether. It no longer seems necessary.

***

 Photo by Mo Riza


John Krygiel June 23, 2013 at 10:54 pm

The first part of the post reminds me of the Four Agreements book and how the words we use have a profound impact on others. Nothing others do to us should be taken personally. It’s all part of their dream and reality. It took me a while to grasp this, but its very freeing once you do!

Tammy R June 24, 2013 at 3:32 am

This is such beautiful writing with a beautiful message. It is late, or early, depending on how you look at it and just what I needed to return to peaceful sleep. Thank you so much. This one is a Return to Frequently piece. I have very few, and this is definitely one..

Nitya June 24, 2013 at 4:01 am

A particularly insightful, well written article. Thanks.

Abhranil Das June 24, 2013 at 4:02 am

This was such a beautiful post. Your blog is nothing like the hollow tautological truisms of self-help and life advice books. They make sense at a very logical level. Thank you for this blog.
Love from India.

Andre June 24, 2013 at 4:43 am

I find that the easiest way to be non-judgmental – which is common sensical for your own well-being, and your ability to be part of caring and loving networks of people – is to remove yourself from an interaction or social context where you are likely to get irritated / agitated. But this breaks down at the point of close friends, where a spouse / lover (or rarely a very close friend of that person) may really get up your back.
I like your take on it being (probably) useless – and rude – to try and change the proverbial Catholic granny. We place far too little emphasis on the rude part. A great many Asian or African societies actively demonstrate more caring and less stressed societies through the way they inter alia treat their elders. Rudeness is so often a terrible by-product of urbanisation, but it need not be.
Spending quality time with people whose interests gel with yours is critical for personal growth and happiness (and often hard to do because there is that nagging voice in the self-image that reminds you you’re a mirror to those parents or friends or relatives that helped shape you, but that you no longer share values with). But it remains stimulating and makes life more interesting to seek out time-limited social situations where you can mingle with people that you seemingly have nothing in common with. I used to watch a local professional soccer team from the neutral stand, where all the dope smokers congregated (pre-World Cup South Africa), and in the process met an assortment of characters from a former South African captain (and rastafarian) to a veteran car thief-turned-businessman who loved little-known African beats.

Tobi June 24, 2013 at 4:51 am

“Modern neuroscience tells us that we don’t actually have freedom of belief.”

Wow, I never thought about this one before.

I don’t want to read the rest of the article. I don’t want to do anything ever again.

Anything and everything I do is completely irrelevant. Because I’m not actually doing them.

David, your programming allows you to make all these wonderful insights and improvements. I used to think I could too, but now that I know I have no control over it I just.. don’t want to try. If my wiring says no, it says no. You said we can control our actions, but our beliefs control our actions, so we don’t actually have control over anything. I’m going to be lazy, unmotivated, and poor (read MMM) my whole life and there’s not a single thing I can do about it, no matter how much I may want to.

I feel strangely feel A LOT better now that I have permission to be lazy, unmotivated and poor.

Terri Lynn June 24, 2013 at 8:13 am

While it may be true that thoughts happen to us, we still get to choose which ones to believe/attach to and which ones to leave. So yes, you do have permission to be lazy, unmotivated and poor. Ain’t freedom great! :)

Alexander June 24, 2013 at 9:07 am

Hi Tobi,

I don’t know where that neuroscience quote comes from, but I’m not sure how true that is.

There’s an entire field today known as neuroplasticity – about how our environment, habits, and conscious actions can actually re-wire our brain.

There’s thousands of years of personal research into changing beliefs (and thus actions) – and it’s known as meditation. I would be wary of anyone claiming you truly can’t change your beliefs or can’t move beyond them. I’m sure you’ve met something so unusual in your life that it changed your entire perception of it (E.g. cops, attractive women, money).

Just some food for thought..

Cheers
Alex

Tobi June 24, 2013 at 3:33 pm

It’s in David’s post. This one to be exact =P

David June 24, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I want to clarify that nobody said beliefs cannot be changed. But we cannot choose our beliefs; a person’s beliefs are involuntary responses to what he experiences in the world around him. If it appears to be true he can’t help but believe it, if it appears to be false he can’t force himself to believe it. Therefore we should never resent a person for what they believe, because nobody is a conscious arbiter of what they believe. Sam Harris’ book on belief and morality (linked in the post) is fascinating. His most recent book is about the related topic of Free Will but I haven’t read it yet.

gem June 24, 2013 at 11:24 am

We each of us have beliefs, much of which has been dictated to us by outside forces, that we accumulate over time by our own unique experiences of being. Each of us at any point in time has a belief structure that is as unique as a finger print and is a guide for how we move through moments. To say that they cannot change, that we have no control over them simply isn’t true and David’s writing supports that. I encourage you to read more of his writings, he shares many moments where he has changed his beliefs by challenging them, by choosing what he wants to keep and what he doesn’t. Read his experiments!
When you think about it, beliefs are actually no more than arbitrary rules that societies and our “self” have decided to accept. Rules can be changed. Choice is always present. Permission is another way of saying that you have a rule that you choose to believe. Permission is judgement of a rule, one that, in this case, you’ve chosen to accept. If that rule has given you better feelings about yourself at that moment in time, is positive for you then of course it is right for you, at that moment in time.

Gustavo June 24, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Some beliefs can be changed; others can’t (try this simple exercise: try hard to believe that Santa exists). The trick is to change those that can be changed. But, what I think David is talking about here is something else: you can’t change OTHER people beliefs. I think that the main reason is this: it cannot be done without the person’s consent and the truth is that nobody really want’s to change their beliefs.

David June 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I don’t want people to get hung up on this point, but what I meant was that nobody can just choose to believe whatever they want. That does not mean we cannot change our beliefs — but to change your beliefs you must learn something that makes an old belief disagreeable or a new belief agreeable.

The bigger point is that it isn’t justifiable to resent people for what they believe, because all of us can only believe what we are able to believe –“Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Erin October 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Exactly. I agree.

Maia June 24, 2013 at 5:22 am

Hi David, great post. I’ve had the same experience as you – minimising interaction with others because I didn’t want to be judged. I never realised it before until recently I had a coaching session which made me see it.
My recent post is also about that being real is the only way to connect with people, and being real means not caring what others think of you and not judging others.

David June 24, 2013 at 7:09 pm

That’s what is so insidious about long-term habits — no matter how debilitating they are, they become normal to us and therefore invisible to us.

I think there is an important distinction between not caring what others think of you and not worrying. It will always be momentarily gratifying when others appear to like me or agree with me, so I can’t help but care. But I do not have to suffer over whether they do.

Michelle June 24, 2013 at 6:39 am

What IS the right word to describe what some call coincidence, and others, a sign? All I know is that the intention and meaning of this post is hugely magnified because I just happened to read it the day after finishing an “Art of Living”, yoga and breathing workshop that lasted 4 days. That was my catalyst. It is the slow compounding of insight that brought me there, but the joy and the truth of that workshop experience has had an effect on me that is very close to yours. Everything you have written rings true. Do you have a plan for maintaining this feeling, this newly integrated wisdom? I hope that in my case, the yoga, breathing techniques and meditation carry me along. Thanks for sharing! Lovely piece (and peace!).

David June 24, 2013 at 7:15 pm

> Do you have a plan for maintaining this feeling, this newly integrated wisdom? I hope that in my case, the yoga, breathing techniques and meditation carry me along.

In my experience, all anxieties come from becoming preoccupied with the future. Any practice that trains you to stay here in the moment will help. Yoga, sports, board games, writing, making music… anything that brings you back to where you are.

jay June 24, 2013 at 7:06 am

I think that other people’s thoughts DO matter. And that is OK. Otherwise we would not have blogs to publish for people to read. There is no harm in recognizing such things.

claire June 24, 2013 at 7:46 am

haha, true too. i guess it’s great to appreciate but that people shouldn’t take it so far as to do things just for the appreciation, because then they lose sight of something fundamentally theirs to express, and rather it’s all on the anticipation of rewards from others. we can see it sometimes starkly with artists; some are so zen about the reaction of their work by others, while others unravel. really, both of those things are okay though. i was thinking… after reading and hearing some things that, i actually quite like when people are amusingly pissed off by things, who share and vent in funny ways. and i would miss people being dark and wry, if everything was more – uhmmmm, just rosy and zen content all the time. :)… i like both.

David June 24, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Thoughts do matter, yes. But there’s no reason to suffer just because a stranger may have a particular thought about you.

Terri Lynn June 24, 2013 at 8:17 am

The post right after this one on my fb newsreel highlighted your point:

I have a friend who is looking for a room to rent for three weeks in July and August…need use of kitchen and air conditioning (due to allergies)…please contact xxx-xxx

cj June 24, 2013 at 8:34 am

Feeling comfy at a naked party is a big deal. But it does not have to be. It is such a struggle to disengage from the perceived judgement of others, but as you say, it is related to how harshly we judge others. It has become far easier to just be myself than it is to pretend and I am enjoying that trend. And hope I have lost altogether. Action has taken its place, another trend I have enjoyed. Thank you for such a fun read and valuable post, David!

George Gurdjieff June 24, 2013 at 9:38 am

- Stop judging others
This one goes as far back into ancient wisdom as man has inhabited the earth. The most noteworthy example being ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’ Its one of those ‘Easy to say, hard to do’ practices that takes years, if not a lifetime to do consistently.

– Hold other people’s freedom of thought as highly as you hold their freedom of speech
From Peter Ouspensky: You may think what you like, but you may not say what you like.

– Notice your impulse to seek scraps of approval
Nice one. We’re a herd species and up to a point its a matter of survival. You know – ‘When in Rome, etc, etc…’ Past this though its a debilitating condition. For myself, it leads to an unnecessary resentment.

– Realize your self-image is not who you are, and that it will always feel at least partly wrong
Another one that has survived from antiquity till the present day: ‘Man, know thyself’.

– Find the like-minded
Right on! That’s why we subscribe to Raptitude :)

Kate Elizabeth June 24, 2013 at 9:39 am

Wow, you’re so honest in sharing your experiences. You’re very articulate, which is altogether too rare – and you have an engaging style of writing that’s very personable. It makes your blog a pleasure to read. And it makes people want to respond, which is the point perhaps – to engage.

It took a long time for me to stop caring what people thought of me in social settings. I realised I couldn’t control what they thought of me, even though I wanted to. So they could just think what they liked, because they were going to anyway – that’s their prerogative.

And I think sometimes we seek approval from others about our life choices, because we’re slightly unsure of them. If you’re sure about what you want, I think that need for approval diminishes greatly.

David June 24, 2013 at 7:27 pm

> And I think sometimes we seek approval from others about our life choices, because we’re slightly unsure of them. If you’re sure about what you want, I think that need for approval diminishes greatly.

Yes, definitely. There can be practical reasons for wanting people to approve of your plans for example — it’s less likely that your dumbest ideas will be widely approved of than your smartest ones. The reactions of others can serve as valuable feedback.

But there is a whole other side to this. You are more likely to receive approval for whatever is normal, whether or not it’s best for you. You’re more likely to encounter disapproval if you decide to be an artist than a middle manager, but that doesn’t mean you’re more likely to be happier if you go for the approved choices, if you know anything about yourself at all.

In any case, it’s when the desire for approval starts to feel like a need that it becomes a serious problem.

Kate Elizabeth June 24, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Agreed. The approved choices can often be the most soul destroying for you. I was so unsatisfied and angst-y in my public service career, that I worked in a pub for 4 years, then went back to university to study film and television. Unorthodox in a society that values stability in a job, and seems to advocate giving up a large part of your happiness for that safety net.

I think realising my happiness was so dependent on my finding my own path, helped my parents let go of the need to approve of what I was doing. And they became supportive.

Their approval of my agnosticism after being raised staunchly Catholic? Never going to happen. So I keep it to myself. I know who I am. But is that self acceptance or tantamount to withholding for fear of being judged?

Helen June 25, 2013 at 3:26 am

That’s an interesting point about seeking approval for our life choices…
Personal experience: when I made a big life change to move to another continent, I got extremely varied reactions from friends and family about my decision.

When I listened carefully to what they said, I realised that most of their comments had nothing to do with me at all – they were mainly a mirror of their own dreams, fears and beliefs. So those who secretly wanted to travel or move away themselves were all for it, projecting their own dreams onto me, yet those who had fears and insecurities about big moves told me horror stories that intimated my move would probably be, at best, a big mistake.

Because at the time, fortunately, I recognised what was going on, i was able to learn a lot about those people’s attitudes, but still take my own decision without taking what they said too personally.

I really enjoyed this blog post David, thank you.

Kate Elizabeth June 27, 2013 at 12:14 am

That says a lot that you were able to discern what was about you, and what wasn’t.

We’re always projecting onto others without realising it. And that’s a good thing to keep in mind, when hearing opinions from others – where are they coming from, and why do they feel the need to impart their wisdom. After all, you haven’t asked for their permission, usually!

Katie June 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

This is my favorite read of the day. Thank you!

Gustavo June 24, 2013 at 11:38 am

I feel very identified with this post, David. Not only I lived a complete year in NY (back in 1994 when I was working for Columbia U.), but I also passed by a self confrontation experience, a life changing one, similar to what you called a a drastic loss of self-consciousness.

You’re right, not every experience works the same for everyone (never been in a naked party). In may case, I came across with a sudden conscience of my addiction to approval.

Today, I still have to make continuous updates from that experience. The most helpful tip I learned then was this: if you catch yourself chronically judging others, it is most likely that there is something that you haven’t forgive of yourself. Forgive yourself and you *automatically* stop judging others.

David June 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm

> Forgive yourself and you *automatically* stop judging others.

This is absolutely true in my experience. When I start laughing at my own poor behavior, the poor behavior of others can no longer annoy me, it’s too funny.

Vilx- June 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm

“But sometimes, if the interpersonal friction is too great, you do need to remove people from your life.”

OOh, I love how positively EVIL this sounds! XD What’s your preferred method?

David June 24, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Arsenic

Tim June 24, 2013 at 4:28 pm

“Notice your impulse to seek scraps of approval”

This reminds me of a recent personality test I took my ‘approval’ rating was the 5% for the general population, so I really, really don’t need your approval or anyone else. I suppose that makes me a ‘freak’ of non-approval. ;) Your post reminded me that not everyone is there yet, so I should respect that fact more in others.

Everyone is on a path…just not the same path. Good luck to everyone to getting to the point where you care less what others think.

David June 24, 2013 at 7:37 pm

With numbers like that you should run for president

Carla June 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Thank you for this post, it was great.

Rafael June 25, 2013 at 4:14 am

Hi! I have to tell you.. i guess you’ re a genious. I’ve never seen any other blog or texts that make so much sense to me than the one’s i read here. I had some cronic doubts about myself and my life that i thought would die with me, cause i just cant get the point.
But after i find this blog many things are getting clear to me.. reading the text i often think “yes, thats it..thats the answers i was looking for ..for so long”. im starting to understand myself better, and to see the world from a wider context. Thank you.. greetings from brazil

Pratik June 25, 2013 at 6:46 am

Great post. Your first point is something that I have also discovered recently as well and it’s great to always hear someone else convey a similar message.

It’s almost as if our mind is a crayon box that can only fit a certain amount of crayons. If a person judges others harshly, he chooses to keep a crayon of judgement and will only end up coloring himself the same way he colors others. If the person chooses to practice love, compassion, and forgiveness for others, those crayons will be added to his box (the presence of which might also remove the judgement and hatred crayons) and he will find it easier to color himself the same way.

Perhaps a silly metaphor, but it’s one that truly resounds with me.

Nancy Henderson June 25, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Another great post.
I’m a high teacher and I have used your website articles frequent as read and respond for my on-line class for 14-15 year-old students.
This will be a great one for starting the new school year in September. Who better to have read and respond to being nonjudgemental then new high school students.
Message will be relax and figure out who you are and enjoy getting to know yourself and finding your friends.
I love your ideas especially when they are asking people to reflect.

MS June 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

Wow. Finally what’s wrong with my life all in one post. One of my greatest desires is to figure out how to not care what other people think about me. I’ve even based a vacation choice on what someone will think. Great post. This definitely gives me something to think about.

Rahul June 27, 2013 at 3:19 am

I have been going through most of these steps lately….and believe me, i feel more free, relieved and more happy. Many a times i think i should have done it long before. But you know the inertia. Thank you, for you just made me realise what actually is happening. :)

Sarah R June 27, 2013 at 4:04 am

I know a lot of people have already commented on this but the jury is far from out on whether we have free will or not. And I still disagree with your clarification “I meant was that nobody can just choose to believe whatever they want. That does not mean we cannot change our beliefs — but to change your beliefs you must learn something that makes an old belief disagreeable or a new belief agreeable.” You might not be able to control what you initially think, just like what you initially feel. But you certainly can believe a flat out lie by telling it to yourself often enough. Even if you never actually believe it fully. Humans also have an incredible ability for cognitive dissonance. As for Free Will, this is based of the assumption that because particles all behave deterministically, therefore we think deterministically. And also because brain imaging has shown that we have already “decided” before we are consciously aware. However this is flawed. First, particles behave with inherent uncertainty according to the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. And we still don’t understand what happens when we “decide”. There is a nice article about this topic, and the controversy between Free Will or determinism, in this month’s New Scientist. http://now.dartmouth.edu/2013/06/a-biological-basis-for-free-will-newscientist/ But basically, I wouldn’t subscribe to the non-Free Will argument (and it would logically make your whole blog pointless) until there is actual undeniable and long-standing evidence. In addition, the not being able to choose your beliefs or thoughts seems likewise flawed. Certainly there is the initial instinct, but we have sentience and logic to change what we think and believe.

Jeremiah June 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

I have liked most of the posts on the blog over the time I’ve read it. I’ve been going through a similar change and am truly grateful for it.

This post, however, takes things in a dangerous and unhealthy direction. It seems to be suggesting an entirely individualistic approach to belief and morality. As these are the building blocks of culture, this amounts to a death of culture. This may feel nice in the short term, in the same way that many addictions do.

If you can’t learn to submit yourself to the values of a community, you can never be truly free or happy. There’s a reason that the Amish are the happiest people around. They take the simplicity and slow conscious pace of life, without the individualism.

Britt Reints June 28, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I need to write #3 on my hand. I just realized this is exactly what I’m doing when I check for comments on a post I like or check into Twitter to see if anyone is talking to or retweeting me. YIKES! Thanks for flipping that switch for me.

Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa June 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Fantastic article. I especially liked tip #1. If you are constantly judging others, on some level you will be thinking about how they are judging you.

Gia June 30, 2013 at 5:10 pm

That part where you talked about moving to another city, neighborhood, or country rings true for me. I’ve been feeling down for a while as I’m surrounded by people and places that remind me of horrible past situations. Hard-to-deal-with relatives keep popping in, even though I don’t like being around them. I’ve felt bullied by them for years. Also, everyday, I pass by at least five places that spur up bad memories. I’ve been wanting to get away for a while now, but I’m struggling to come up with the money. I’m living at home and going to college, hopefully I can find a part-time job and at least move somewhere near the college.

Reading your post has also made me realize how self-conscious I am everyday. I can’t stop comparing myself to others, and wonder how people are happy, and why I’ve been stuck in this rut for so long. I honestly think I need a fresh start, but I’m wondering if it moving away will really help. Because I don’t know if I can save up enough for a while, maybe I should just stay and and find a way to be happy here.

Can moving to a different area change your perspective on things and make you generally happier?

Anna July 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Yes, it can, and in ways you probably can’t imagine. Find that part-time job and move. You’ll never regret it. I was born into a family that is so at odds with me that I often wonder if I’m adopted. It was hell during my teen and college years. I felt icky in my own skin and their presence and my home setting stifled my personality and spirit. I was a shadow. Until I finally quit college in my third year, moved to another college town with a more artsy vibe, and found a full-time job and tiny apartment–which I loved because I got to live the way I wanted to live. No more living in chaos with the tv on all the time and dealing with my father’s anger issues. It took two years of working full-time before I was able to return to college to finish my degree but it was worth it for the peace of mind. My cousin came to visit me seven months after I moved out of my parents’ place and she kept saying, “you’re so different now, even the way you dress and walk.” My advice to you: MOVE away from the energy suckers in your life.

Jessica July 1, 2013 at 9:46 am

I think that tip #1 is definitely the most important! Great post – thank you for sharing =)

Jessi Tidwell July 1, 2013 at 11:27 pm

As always, this is just brilliant. Actually, this might be one of my absolute favorites, and it really hits home. Thanks, David!

Oh Danny Boy July 4, 2013 at 3:11 am

Modern neuroscience tells us that we don’t actually have freedom of belief. A person cannot make himself believe whatever he wants

This is, fortunately, incorrect. Not my belief, just fact. Working with phobias for 20yrs, which play heavily on false beliefs, but which can thankfully be successfully reversed. An enjoyable read non the less.

Josh July 5, 2013 at 12:15 am

You dead on with finding the like minded. – You’re a collective reflection of the people you spend the most time with!

SwanHuman July 9, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Points number 1 and number 2 are in contradiction. How can I stop judging others if I can’t control my thoughts…?

Sean October 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm

An interesting point! I’m not sure I’m fully on board with the “you can’t change your beliefs” idea, but regardless of its validity or lack thereof, I would say that choosing not to judge others is more like changing a habit, which is more like reacting to your thoughts than controlling them from the onset. Changing a habit is clearly possible; it just takes practice. Changing your beliefs, that’s a different discussion that I have yet to delve into.

Pranjal July 11, 2013 at 4:40 am

The only regret while I was reading this article, “why the hell, I didn’t came to this blog sometime earlier?”

You, just made my day, and in simple terms “I don’t give a single F**k what people thinks about me,” I just do, whatever makes me feel happy!

yayaver August 22, 2013 at 7:43 pm

thanks for putting such a nice article.

Sylvie August 23, 2013 at 11:41 am

I feel like you’ve made so many good points. I grew up in Long Island NY and had tons of friends and loved it, but when I was 12 my mom decided to move us down to swampy Florida to be close to her parents, in a very country, small town, non-diverse town. I hated it. I started to struggle in school and continued hate it. When I turned 16 I started working as hard as I could for several years just saving and saving. There was nothing in the area I was interested in, no diversity, organic eating, outdoor activities, no farmers markets, really nothing to explore..YET, i continued to force myself to feel like it isn’t that bad. I continued seeing other people from up north move down and think to myself if they are moving down here and like it why can’t I? Like I was constantly comparing the needs of my own life to absolute strangers. Ridiculous I know.
In short, once I finally realized I wasn’t living my life the way I wanted and got the courage to move back to where home felt like home, there was no better feeling after pushing through the fear, stop comparing myself to strangers..it all really hit home.
I really enjoyed your article, especially the last two paragraphs:
Find the people who love what you love. They are out there, no matter how little you have in common with the mainstream. Human beings are built for loving.
Moving to another household, neighborhood, city or even country is often a relatively small price to pay for a consistently higher level of self-esteem and fulfillment. People do it all the time, and they wonder how they ever got along before.
Most of us invest too little conscious attention in creating living situations that allow us to be fully who we are, with a real sense of freedom.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of shedding self-consciousness, but it is a physical feeling with physical habit changes. It feels like there is much less that’s off-limits to you. You find yourself less attracted to the edges of rooms. You accept more invitations. You fidget less. You stop waiting for others to do the talking. You ask for things you want. You do less hoping that others will behave a certain way. You do less hoping altogether. It no longer seems necessary.

Tina August 23, 2013 at 7:48 pm

To me, this is such wisdom. I was incredibly judgmental of almost any couple who divorced. I was miserable in my marriage and thought others should stick it out like I was. But then, I came to the realization that the best thing to do was to go ahead and split up. At that point, my perspective changed and I became, almost immediately, a more forgiving person. And not just when it came to divorce, but in all areas of life. Still working on the self-consciousness and self-image so thank you for this food for thought!

Kasuni Samara August 29, 2013 at 7:24 am

worrying, worrying,….more worrying about anything
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diJF-VQXbJY&list=PL75AC5BFB3DDD4CB8

angelina September 15, 2013 at 3:42 am

my classmate’s ex-wife makes $61/hour on the internet. She has been without a job for seven months but last month her payment was $17887 just working on the internet for a few hours. you can check here ———> http://www.jobs47.com

Sean October 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm

This is gold! Gold, I tell you!

(That is, the content of this article, not the spam before my comment.)

Thanks, David!

Viola December 29, 2013 at 1:49 am

I think when you worried about someone else”s opinion of you that your making them an Idol

Christine March 20, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Interesting and informative article. Very insightful. I do disagree with a few points though. While it’s true your beliefs are fed to you from childhood and you can’t control the mess of thoughts that pop up into your consciousness, you obviously can attain knowledge and weigh new ideas on a scale of what is beneficial vs. what it not. The statement made seems based on a belief that people won’t do this.
As far as freeing yourself from the fear of judgment; giving up all but a few select morals (like the kind that prevent you from attending nude parties) will do that, but is that a good thing?
Also, you gave more than one example that had to do with Christian beliefs being wrong or bad (or not even a choice). There will always be believers of any religion that go way overboard, but typically Christians trying to win converts want the best for others. They want people to receive the freely given gift of salvation because they care. Not because they want to control your actions and thoughts. Not all religious people are sincere or sane and many are trying to earn a place in heaven by their own efforts (an impossible feat). Please don’t decide in your mind that all religious people are the same.

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